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Definition: A hiding place or concealed location used for storing things.

Pronunciation: Ab-dit-ore-ee


The word abditory comes directly from the Latin word abditorium, which also meant a hiding place.  Abditorium comes from the Latin verb abdere which means to put away or hide.  The first known use of the word was in 1658 according to the Oxford English Dictionary.  It has never been a common word but it has increased in use due to its inclusion in many works of science fiction.

Why this word?

When I was growing up my parents took us every summer to vacation in an old house in New Hampshire.  As children we were fascinated by the fact that there was a hidden room on the first floor off the dining room that was supposedly used on the Underground Railroad to bring escaped slaves further north.  On the second floor there was a hidden compartment in the floor of the hallway, unnoticeable underneath a rug, that would’ve housed any money or jewels that the family needed to hide.  I once convinced my sister to hide in it.  We spent a great deal of time looking for more hidden compartments but never found them.

I completely understand the renaissance this word is having in the science fiction and fantasy genre.  It’s a word that refers to something we all know and use but sounds unfamiliar enough to provide a sense of strangeness, of otherness, which is perfect for the genres in question.  Hopefully more words can enjoy the same rebirth in our language.

How to use the word abditory?

“Upon hearing a prowler outside, she took care to place all her valuables in the abditory.”

“After his death we opened his abditory only to find a single, unsealed note which simply read, ‘Buy fish’, leaving us with a great many questions.”


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Written by Kate Fulton

Kate Fulton has a bachelor’s degree in classics and psychology from the University of Massachusetts and is working on a library science degree from Simmons College. She has always been fascinated by words- their usage, spelling, and etymology. Kate may be one of the few people who enjoyed the verbal section of the SAT. Yes, she is a word geek. Currently she bores her husband and young daughter with her love of vocabulary.


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